When the two new members of the Frederick County Planning Commission officially take their seats on Sunday, one of the first issues they will tackle is whether to recommend the building of 12,688 homes on 8,824 acres of farmland.
William Hall and Dwaine Robbins were appointed by the Frederick Board of County Commissioners to the seven-member planning board on June 21. The two men were appointed to replace outgoing members Catherine Forrence and Bob White, whose terms expire on Saturday.
Just a week after their appointment, it is unclear how the two men will vote.
“I don’t have any opinions until I get all the information,” Hall said. “I don’t think I should make a comment yet, until I am officially appointed on July 1. I don’t make rash judgements until I get a little more information.”
Attempts to reach Robbins were unsuccessful.
The role of the planning board is to recommend to county commissioners whether or not to approve proposed development. It is considered an advisory board, and typically commissioners its recommendations into consideration when making a decision.
However, that was not the case when 193 property owners in the county asked to have their land rezoned for commercial development and new housing.
In November, the current planning commission, including Forrence and White, voted to discontinue a planned series of public hearings on the rezoning requests. The planning board recommended to commissioners they also discontinue the process and not approve the rezonings.
The county commissioners ignored the planning commission’s recommendation, and gave preliminary approval to 163 of the 193 property owners on 8,824 acres of land.
As a result, the Maryland Department of Planning sent commissioners a letter May 30, warning the proposed development could lead to urban sprawl, strains on county services and inefficient use of land.
John Coleman, spokesman for the department of planning, told The Gazette last week that counties typically do not ignore the recommendations of their planners.
Because commissioners have not officially approved the rezonings, the planning commission — with new members Hall and Robbins — will have another opportunity to consider the requests.
“They will be briefed from county staff and there will be a joint public hearing with the planning commission and the commissioners on July 31,” said Frederick County Commissioners’ President Blaine R. Young (R). “It could be different or it could be the same.”
Young said when the candidates for the planning commission were interviewed for the positions on June 21, they were not asked how they would vote on the rezonings.
“That wasn’t one of the questions,” Young said. “The questions were very fact-based. There were 15 questions that were pretty much procedural.”
Young, who is angry with the planning commission’s decision to halt the public hearing process on the rezonings, said he does not know how Hall and Robbins will vote. Young said the two were appointed to the commission because they have planning experience.
Hall served on the Frederick city Planning Commission from 1992 to 1998 and as a city alderman from 1998 to 2005.
Robbins served on the city’s planning commission from 1998 to 2007.